By Dr. Tina Pariani, Geriatrician
At some point, we all have experienced some lapses in memory. But as we age, if those lapses are severe enough to interfere with a person’s independence and daily activities it could be a sign of dementia — a disease that effects the brain. There are many different kinds of dementias but the most common one is Alzheimer’s disease, which causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.
Alzheimer’s causes and prevention
Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time. That said, the biggest risk factor is age. And having a close family member with Alzheimer’s disease increases your chances of developing it, as well.
You can help prevent Alzheimer’s by exercising, getting enough sleep, learning new things to exercise your brain and connecting socially. Eating a diet high in Omega 3s, olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, vegetables, and fish, such as the Mediterranean diet, is also key.
The earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are gradual and often subtle. Many people and their families first notice difficulty remembering recent events or information. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, a person’s ability to think clearly continues to decline, and in many persons, personality and behavioral symptoms, such as agitation, sleep disturbances and hallucinations, may arise.
There are a number of medications that can help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s and may help to control some of the symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease; although, scientists are learning more about it all the time.
If you or a loved one is showing signs of Alzheimer’s, seek the professional help of a physician to examine the best treatment options. If you are a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s, providing for them can be taxing. Visit the Alzheimer’s Association for local support groups, community programs and services.